To follow the previous post on essential herbs, here are my top five spices.  I do use considerably more than these, but my minimal kitchen would require these for me to survive happily.

1.  Cumin: Essential to curries, Mexican food, and North African cuisine, cumin is well worth the shelf space and precious $$ that spices seem to consume.

2.  Cinnamon: Known for helping to control blood glucose (sugar), cinnamon is also an anti-inflammatory as well as a wonderful sweet spice.  Add it to fruit dishes, meats, cereal and baked goods, carrots, and teas as well as curries and African dishes.

3.  Pepper: “Salt and pepper to taste” anyone?  Pepper adds a slight zing, and even works well in gourmet chocolates. More standard uses include meats, salad dressings, and vegetable dishes.

4.  Peppers, of the capsacium type: One can have an entire shelf full of dried pepper options, but I generally opt to keep cayenne and chili powder on hand.  Red chili flakes are also useful, and technically smoked paprika falls under the category of peppers.

5.  Curry powder: okay, I’ll admit this is a spice blend. It’s just one jar though! I suggest searching for something other than the American supermarket mix that the Joy of Cooking calls for. Ethnic groceries generally have more options, whether you are looking for a mix for Jamaica goat curry or a spciy Punjabi blend. If you have a little red jar, upgrade. You’ll be astonished at the difference!

Does your list differ? Co you prefer coriander to cumin, or nutmeg to cinnamon?

P.S. Regular readers: my apologies for the interminable absentia. Life was rather busy, but I’ll be back, intermintently. Ideas for blog posts welcome!